MJ and I

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Read Time:6 Minute, 1 Second

Hi friends,

You guessed it right. It’s indeed Michael Jackson I’m referring to. It’s his birthday today (sob, sob). As a generation, we grew up on his songs. Then I was a youngster; I could just listen to his songs and enjoy them. As I grew up, I could write too – that’s what brings us to this blog, today. I wanted to use this opportunity to pen a few lines about the King of Pop. Unlike a few other worthless singers who audaciously titled themselves ‘King of Pop’, MJ was named that by his producers, critics and fans unanimously. That’s what a true legend looks like.

Mah nigga… wait, I’m not Samuel L. Jackson, so I’ll drop the n-word. MJ was born on 29th August 1958; 18 years before I did. That’s approximately one generation ahead. No wonder, my Mamas (maternal uncles) were hooked on this kind of music. The household I grew up in, was quite liberal in terms of religion, politics, music, etc. – no bounds, no limits. Audiotapes (it was the ’70s) of M.S. Subbalaxmi, Yesudas, Ilayaraja could happily co-exist with MJ, Boney M, Carpenters, ABBA, etc. This is what exposed me to equal amounts of Indian and Western music.. both contemporary and classical.

Getting back to MJ… he began early as the lead singer of The Jackson Five. His parents’ musical pursuits brushed off on him too. While his father played the guitar in his leisure, his mother played the clarinet and the piano. Music already ran through his veins. I am sure that is what made him joined his brother’s band – aptly titled ‘The Jackson Five’. They were Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael (R.I.P.). The other four brothers are alive, though. It was around 1975-76 that MJ decided to go solo. But hold on…. this is not his biography. This is about how MJ’s musical timeline coincides with my life. Let’s get to that point now.

My first brush with MJ music dates back to his fifth solo album – OFF THE WALL which was released in 1979 (I was 2, going on 3). One song stayed with me – the soulful ballad SHE’S OUT OF MY LIFE. Unlike other fast-paced MJ songs with oodles of oohs and aahs… this song was slow and melodious. If I had a break-up, it would cut right through my soul. But I was just 2 – a toddler. ‘Relevance’ hadn’t set in yet. I just enjoyed the songs.

Cut to 1982. Then I was 6. No longer a toddler – I was then a boy and could walk and talk properly. While the entire world was going ga-ga over the song THRILLER from that album – I was replaying a few other tracks too – from the slow-paced HUMAN NATURE to the medium-paced BILLIE JEAN, BEAT IT and THE GIRL IS MINE all the way to the fast-paced WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’. I loved THRILLER too (so does my 9-year old daughter). Those were the days – school days – carefree days full of fun and frolic.

BAD was released in 1987. Then I was 11 – a bigger, BAD-der boy. I just made up that word. I had my entire peer group crooning to the tune of the melodious, slow-paced LIBERIAN GIRL, I JUST CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU and MAN IN THE MIRROR – moving on to THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL, DIRTY DIANA, SMOOTH CRIMINAL and finally asking who’s BAD?

Then came DANGEROUS in 1991. This time though I was slow on catching up with MJ. It was only in 1997 that I graduated from college and got my first job that I could PURCHASE my first audiotape… MJ’s DANGEROUS. I relished on gems like BLACK OR WHITE, WHO IS IT, REMEMBER THE TIME etc. While REMEMBER THE TIME reminded me of the time when I had my first brush with teenage romance (one that failed miserably), soulful ballads like HEAL THE WORLD begged the whole to restore peace and harmony. BLACK OR WHITE sent a message asking all of us to get above RACIST lines. These songs indeed had a considerable influence on my persona.

This stage of my life marked my growing distances with MJ’s music. This was the time when I was introduced to the INTERNET and had access to other artists’ music. All I had to pay for was internet access. I could (surreptitiously) download several MP3 tracks. That was the in-thing those days. ‘In-thing’ = ‘trending things’ in millennials parlance.

Somehow I could never get MJ’s music out of my system. I bought his audio tapes (no money for CDs or CD players, you see). The DVD was for the rich. We could go as far as CDs. I could barely manage 1.44 MB floppy disks. Hence – audiotapes. One thing led to another and one sad day, i.e. 25th June 2009, I got the sad news of MJ’s death. I was in a movie hall. It was the interval and I had gone to buy some coffee. It was purely instinctive. I bought the coffee, turned around and saw the large-screen television flashing the news of MJ’s accidental death (lethal overdose of propofol). 

I was in tears. To me, he was a living legend (till that day – afterwards we could not use the word ‘living’ alongside legend). I was amongst a crowd. Many MJ fans like me, were confused – not sure how to react. I wanted a release. I dumped my coffee and headed for the loo. I locked myself and wept my heart out. It was over in a minute. I was 33, a man and crying in public was not meant for men (that’s what the society said and I believed then). I regained my composure, washed my face and walked out of the movie. After that, I could not watch the movie for obvious reasons.

I went to my apartment and crashed (went to sleep). I didn’t want to talk to anyone that night. All his melodious songs were racing in my mind. I’m sure some readers may think, “big deal – he was just an artist”. They say, “to each, his own”. For others, it may not be a big deal – but to me it was. Not that I went into mourning, or drank heavily – nothing like that happened. It was just immense grief – that’s all. I was out of it the next day. The show must go on. Time waits for no one. In a few days, I was over my grief completely. Akon gave me a good parting song for MJ – HOLD MY HAND. While the song was recorded in 2007 i.e. when MJ was alive, it was posthumously released in 2010. That song still gives me a ‘lump-in-the-throat. It’s been over a decade now (12 years to be precise).

The void he left in the musical scene (in my opinion) remains vacant. For people like me, there won’t be another MJ. So here’s to you MJ – Happy Birthday. I’ll miss you till the end.

May your soul rest in peace.

Bye folks.

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Tell Us Something About Yourself

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Read Time:4 Minute, 27 Second

The other day, I just got back from a 15-minute a.k.a short break during my ‘Communications Training’. My trainer had a wonderful activity in store for us. We had to introduce ourselves in a story or poetry form. No names to be disclosed. At first, it seemed a herculean task – but as I started writing, I figured it was worse. It just didn’t sit well with me. I had to do something different – something that helps me express myself. I didn’t want to cut a sorry figure mouthing lines like a parrot. That’s when I decided to go extempore (Show-off, did you say? Well… then, show-off it is). What came out of my mouth the other day was an excerpt. Here are the whole nine yards. Read on!!!

Several blue moons ago, in a dusty town, which by the way is also known as Orange City, landed a lanky yet handsome blue-eyed man with his lissom wife. No – they didn’t meet there, didn’t fall in love there (arranged marriage, you see), didn’t get married there (that happened in God’s Own Country) – they just reached there from yet another town, about 250KM East. This was the beginning of an epic journey called Marital Life that they embarked on, in the year MCMLXXVI AD, a leap year, the year in which Eagles released Hotel California.

It was not a bed of roses – far from it. While they could just make ends meet, I’m sure that’s not what every man/woman dream of after entering the sacrament of Holy matrimony (no – we’re not Catholics). One thing led to another and they brought their first offspring into this big bad world. Seven pounds and a half – a healthy baby – the firstborn – a SON. In a patriarchal world, this was good news. Now knowing any better – they named him after the erstwhile reigning superstar of what is now called Bollywood.

The day is special too – it was a pleasant winter afternoon-going-on-evening. 1620 IST if I could be precise. It was the very day, several millennia ago, a messiah was born in Bethlehem. I’d like to quote a few lines from the famous Boney M song – Mary’s Boy Child (released in 1978 – that’s not my Y.O.B.)

While shepherds watch their flocks by night

They see a bright new shining star

They hear a choir sing a song, the music seemed to come from afar

Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today

And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day

Wait a minute, my Christian brethren – I mean no disrespect. Just a coincidence, here. Peace?

Not a king – but the apple of their eye.

Not a manger – but a small hospital in the urban area of the largest city of North Malabar. The place has a sobriquet too – The land of looms and lore.

That’s where this skinny boy was born. 25th December. Don’t get funny ideas – the boy was far from what you’re already thinking. If you thought of the devil – we couldn’t agree any more than this. Good Job.

This family took the boy to his new home – back to Orange City. The house was a rented apartment in a pre-independence building. This is where he would go from crawling on all fours to riding on two wheels (driven by a moderately powerful 125cc engine). He spent the first 29 years of his life there. More on this here.

Moving On

In 2005, this boy – now a young man moved bag and baggage to what is also called the City of Seven Island, City of Dreams, Maximum City etc. this was where he knew what a five-figure salary feels like. He also got a taste of Adrenaline rush, some Ethanol derivates, some Cortisol, some serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins etc. This city looked like a nuthouse to him, in the beginning. He never knew he would settle down here and start a family one fine day.

More on the boy’s/young man’s migration diaries here.

The boy who once got into trouble for NOT SPEAKING to classmates – now instructs his students NOT TO SPEAK to classmates (only while he’s teaching). From ‘getting scared of teachers’ to ‘getting scared of the boss’ – life has come a full circle. The boy – hereinafter called ‘man’ who has lots to say – but only a few open minds to comprehend the contents, in toto. The man – who stands 6 ft. tall but stands humbled before his 5 ft. something queen. The man who reprimands students for not completing their assignments – but gets reprimanded for not cleaning the house (even after a seemingly arduous day at work. The man – who excels in Communication Skills – but still struggles to get a word in edgeways at home. the man who teaches students how to debate – but has never won a single debate with Her Majesty. the man with a face only his mother could love – now has an eight-year-old who calls him a Prince Charming (Kids!!!).

The man must now rest his tired fingers before Carpel-Tunnel syndrome sets in. I’ll be back soon – in a millennium maybe. Going back to my ‘hiding under the rock’ phase.

Bye for now.

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Extempore and Networking

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Read Time:4 Minute, 23 Second

Hello, all you lovely people.

Weird title? No – it isn’t.

I’m glad I could find some time to pen a few lines. This time it was almost like an epiphany. Like all other epiphanies I’ve had before, this one proved an eye-opener once again. What’s the title got to do with this, you ask? Hold on – all good things come to the man/woman who waits.

Extempore is not just an activity you engaged in, in school or college. It’s a real-life situation and could prove a nightmare if you do not handle it with care. Let us tear this apart. Let us begin with defining the word.

Before that, here’s how to pronounce ‘extempore’ – a word that’s widely mispronounced.

Cambridge Dictionary:

Chambers dictionary:

Google dictionary:

Now that we have got the definition out of the way, let us take a look at its implications. As mentioned earlier, this is not just a word to be defined, it is a situation we may have to live and thereby overcome sometimes. Or should I say many a time? I guess the latter is more befitting.

This is not a new concept or situation. We all have been through this many times – just that we may not have known what it is called. The only reason we need to talk about it is that this will help you recover from such situations easily if not majestically. The problem gets compounded if one also suffers from stage fright a.k.a. Glossophobia.

Glossophobia + Extempore = Catastrophe

While people smartly take care of Glossophobia, an extempore situation may sometimes be shoved down our throats, making it difficult to recover unhurt. However, from my experience, I can vouch for the fact that Glossophobia can be cured. I suffered from it once, as a schoolboy. Today, I teach an entire class of sophomores and have a reasonable (if not magnanimous) following. I would shudder even at the thought or reading from a textbook (from my desk), let alone speaking extempore taking the centre stage. I’ve come a long way – is all I can say for now. However, the journey was not at all easy. On the contrary, I have suffered many a fiasco. The bottom line is – now I’m at peace.

Now let us move on to the next word in the title – Networking.

In my honest opinion, rarely is anyone born with guts of steel and the resultant mind-blowing confidence. We are all born the same – scared of many things. Situations change us – some make us, some break us. However, one of the many things that help overcome an extempore speaking situation is general knowledge. A little knowledge of various topics never hurt. In such critical situations, it can prove a life-saver. They say, birds of a feather flock together. This is not an automatic process – even the birds need to FIND other birds of similar plumage for flocking. In the same way, find people with similar interests and network with them regularly.

Similar interests don’t matter. It depends on the kind of information or knowledge you seek. E.g. if I need to need to sharpen my knowledge of legal terms, I would try to be in the company of lawyers. If photography interests me (and I’ve just discovered that), I would hang out with photographers. If I don’t know any, I would get somebody to introduce me to one so that I can network with them. There’s a biblical phrase I strongly believe in – “Ask, and thou shall receive”. Although I do not subscribe to the theosophical context of the phrase, I do, to the social context.

I maintain – not all knowledge is gleaned from books. Some can be achieved through social networking too. There is a fine line that one needs to watch out when gaining knowledge through social networking. Gone are the days of virtue, days when speaking the truth was important, days when lying was a sin. Since lies, falsehood, treachery etc. are rampant – choose your network wisely. It’s not that books can’t go wrong – after all, it’s people like us that wrote those books too. There’s a difference though, the older the books – the closer to the truth they are.

All in all, read, discuss intelligent topics, watch meaningful videos (and not trashy newspapers or channels that boast of nation-building while secretly abiding by the diktats of their political masters), network with people who matter. All this only goes a long way in alleviating the problem (of monstrous proportions to some) of Glossophobia, thereby helping you with extempore speech.

Start preparing early and when the situation presents itself, just grab it by the… err (clearing my throat) … collar. The next time someone hands over the mic to you, just do what Nike has been asking you to do since I don’t know when … JUST DO IT.

Bye for now.

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Ma L’amore No

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Read Time:3 Minute, 47 Second

Malena (2000)

For the clueless lot, this is the name of an eponymous track sung by Lina Termini, an Italian singer-actor. It was included in the 2000 Italian movie Malena. That is when I heard it for the first time. The movie is based on the WWII era (1939-45), especially when Italy entered WWII. Oh, WWII means 2nd World War (just in case you were still scratching your head). As IMDB succinctly describes the movie, “Amidst the war climate, a teenage boy discovering himself becomes love-stricken by Malena, a beautiful woman living in a small, narrow-minded Italian town.”

WWII

One thing that fascinated me was that this movie fulfils my near-psychotic nostalgia. Somehow, I love things from the past when things were (seemingly) easy and simple. At least, that’s what it looks like, to me. I sometimes yearn to get teleported to that ‘simple’ era. When reality slaps me hard in the face, I do wake up and smell the coffee. The other thing about the movie – regarding the title – Ma L’amore No (But Love No) is the haunting melody of that song.

Good old days

Since the first time I heard it, I’ve (almost) always been transported back to the ‘40s or even the ‘30s. in an eerie coincidence, my grandfather was a teenager then. Now, where did he come into the picture? All in good time. To know the reference to this emotion, one needs to read ‘Long time ago…The village Doctor’. His romance with his wife was legendary. No – not the mushy type portrayed in the movies. He was the ‘40s convent educated, yet Indian man with little to no regard for mushy romance. You read it right – romance, wife. What started with dating, ended only at his funeral (not even at her grave – she died a few years before he did).

Old Couple

In the twilight of their lives, the couple would sit at the veranda, looking into nothingness, speaking just a few words here and there, yet speaking volumes even with their silence. Now that’s what I call the ultimate romance – words not required. Wait a minute – what’s this blog about? Geriatric romance? Not quite. I’m getting to the point. By the way, I call it a geriatric romance because by the time I could realize their emotions, they were already septuagenarians and hence a geriatric couple.

Now let me join the dots – the hauntingly melodious song and the geriatric romance. Now, whenever I hear the song, I imagine them waltzing to that tune in the same era the movie depicts – the ‘40s. That is when they would have been in the prime of their youth. I know this sounds crazy – a quaint couple from Kerala would seem like a far cry from the erstwhile Italian lifestyle. There is still some logic to it – she was an Anglo-Indian and waltz or some form of ballroom dancing would not be new/strange to her. He went to a convent school and hence would not be ignorant about it too. It makes perfect sense to me. Even till their old age, as mentioned above – I imagine their ‘silent’ conversations with the song playing in the background on an imaginary record player. Well, ‘imagine’ would be an incorrect term – these are thoughts that flash across my mind whenever I hear the song with my eyes closed. Such was the influence the melody had on my psyche.

His old dispensary, his belongings, his romance – they all bear a trademark of a bygone era – something that sadly remains confined to the annals of history. I would be the last of my generation to have borne a silent testimony to it. The next generation is way too fast and lacks the attention span that I had as a kid. I know, this song, the melody, the romance, the nostalgia etc. will subside with me. I write this so the next generation (if they read it, that is) can understand what romance meant in the ‘40s and how it lost its glory somewhere down the timeline.

There is more I could say about that barely two-minute song and its immense impact on my psyche – but I doubt if the readers would have the energy left to endure it. So, given my readers’ well-being, I stop right here. You can thank me later.

Bye for now!!!

Reference:

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